EBU urges European Commission to tackle fake news

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The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) is urging the European Commission to ensure online platforms and advertisers put in place effective procedures and policies to tackle the scourge of fake news.

In September 2018, the Sounding Board of the Multistakeholder Forum on Disinformation – of which the EBU is a member – delivered a damning verdict on the Commission’s so-called ‘Code of Practice’.

The Sounding Board – comprising of representatives of the media, civil society, journalists, consumer organisations, fact-checkers and academia – agreed the new Code of Practice offered:

  • no common approach
  • no meaningful commitments
  • no measurable objectives or KPIs
  • no compliance or enforcement tools and
  • no possibility to monitor the implementation process.

The continued increase in disinformation and fake news online is threatening democratic processes and institutions throughout Europe.

Online platforms, social networks and advertisers had the opportunity to address these problems by producing a self-regulatory Code of Practice. Unfortunately, the resulting ‘Code’ fails to meet any meaningful definition of self-regulation.

EBU Director General Noel Curran said: “This is a missed opportunity to address the very real problems created by the spread of disinformation online. The online platforms and social networks have a responsibility for the content that they circulate and they must act decisively against all types of fake news and disinformation. We would urge the European Commission to realise the scale of the threat and take this issue seriously. For example, we would like to see the platforms demonstrate more transparency – both in terms of sources and sponsorship – and also address the way algorithms are currently controlling the content delivered to audiences.”

Spokesperson for the Sounding Board, Prof Ravi Vatrapu, from the Centre for Business Data Analytics at the Copenhagen Business School, said: “From a scientific perspective, the Code of Practice falls far short of concrete commitments for access to data for conducting independent scientific research into the presence, reach, influence, and impact of disinformation on the platforms.”

The Sounding Board has asked the European Commission to closely monitor the situation for a test period in the run-up to the forthcoming European elections and to assess whether the Code delivers against the goals initially set out in Communication – Tackling Online Disinformation: a European Approach.


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